The Tao of Love and Relationships

David James Lees, Guest Writer
Waking Times

As Valentine’s Day approaches I thought it would be an ideal opportunity to discuss the topic of love and relationships from both my professional experience and a Taoist spiritual perspective. I’d like to focus on the three main areas of ‘emotional misunderstanding’ that I encounter when dealing with love and relationship issues with my clients and offer my practical Wu Wei Wisdom to help you with these situations.

Many of you will have experienced the wonderful sensation of being in love and also suffered the painful feelings associated with a relationship breaking down. I believe it to be a vital part of the human psyche to strive towards a feeling of being loved or being in love. This is such a strongly positive experience, encountered when your Qi (or spiritual energy) is flowing in harmony – what I refer to as being in your Wu Wei’. This profound feeling of love allows you to experience a true sensation of inner peace, connection and harmony both with yourself and your significant other. Sharing good and bad times, being able to support each other without being judged or criticised, gives you both strength and comfort and can help lift you towards your highest spiritual vibration.

The first teaching I would like to offer relates to an emotional misunderstanding of the energy of love…

In my practice as a spiritual counsellor and coach the issue I encounter most frequently when helping clients with relationship matters is that of self-love or self-worth – Taoists label this energy as Ch’ang, which can be loosely translated as ‘self-nurturing’. This teaching is as relevant to you if you are single or seeking a loving relationship as it is if you are experiencing challenges or difficulties within a current relationship.

  • Verse 10 of the classic spiritual Taoist text the Tao Te Ching, which I have translated for you here, reveals many insights on the profound subject of Ch’ang in its poetic words:

    Can you nurture your own spirit whilst holding the unity of Oneness? 

    Can you connect to the Qi of your sensitivity, creative imagination and determination whilst harmonising with Wu Wei? 

    Can you understand your Human centred mind without corrupting your Tao centred mind? 

    And can you do all this whilst loving and nourishing yourself rather than indulging your self-interest and selfishness? 

    Then you can truly love all people without harming yourself, 

    allowing others to rise to their fullest height whilst not diminishing your own stature.

    One of the most important messages offered here is that you must learn to nurture and love your own ‘spirit’ above all else. If you can do this and find and treasure your own personal truth there can be no fear, disappointment or lack of love. Harnessing your flow of Qi (spiritual energy) in this way allows your sensitivity, creative imagination and determination to flow harmoniously, and will create a tremendous feeling of bliss – the feeling that we in the West call ‘LOVE’.

    If you find yourself using emotive terms to describe negative feelings such I feel alone, vulnerable, cheated, unloved, betrayed etc… use these as a signposts to tell you are disconnected from your Qi or spirit. It’s imperative to address these misunderstandings and begin to reconnect yourself to your Tao centred mind and Oneness with the Universe through the practice of Ch’ang or self-nurturing.

    There are also countless ‘spin-off’ benefits practising Ch’ang, one of the main ones being that you invoke the Universal law of attraction. This means that if you’re seeking a relationship or attempting to improve your current relationship by practising Ch’angyou’ll automatically generate lots of positive vibes that’ll magnetise more of the same positive energy, situations and people into your life. I’ve explained how this particular process works in much greater detail here in my blogs on the law of attraction which you may enjoy reading further.

    The subject of Ch’ang, self-love and self-worth is a huge teaching in Taoism – I’ll be unravelling it further in my future workshops and audio recordings where I’ll explain how to:

    • overcome the emotional blockages that stop you from loving yourself
    • understand how being self-focussed does not mean being selfish
    • connect to the limitless abundance of the Universe allowing you give more to others whilst still putting yourself first
    • learn powerful practical techniques for self-nurturing.

    For now please reflect on your own self-love and self-worth to ensure that Ch’ang is flowing harmoniously within your life – if you can achieve this you’ll be amazed at the results you’ll encounter almost immediately.

    The second teaching I would like to offer is underpinned by advice I received during my first professional counselling job…

    After graduating from university I worked with the Marriage Guidance Council (now re-branded as ‘Relate’ – I’m showing my age!). During my time here I was very kindly taken under the wing of a senior counsellor who offered me this little piece of advice which I’ve never forgotten:

    “Always remember that in the relationship counselling room there are three energies: the female energy, the male energy and, most importantly, the energy of the relationship. This third, relationship energy will never be maintained unless both partners are willing and able to commit to and participate in caring for and developing this rewarding but extremely challenging process.”

    Reflecting on this now I fully appreciate the truth behind these words and I regularly encounter situations whereby one or both partners are not mindful of, or are unable to deal with, the challenging process of maintaining a loving relationship.

    When embarking on a relationship most people are aware that they are making a commitment to the energy of the other person (or why else would they want to be with them?!), yet many fail to appreciate the gravity of responsibility that comes with committing to, and growing, the energy of a loving relationship. And so it is that, when faced with even the smallest of challenges, the unattended relationship energy breaks down much more easily.

    The issue I most commonly encounter in this regard is centred on regaining trust, love and respect for a partner that you feel may have betrayed you or deeply hurt your emotions. In these situations, where you may have (temporarily) diminished affections for your partner, it’s critical that your shared commitment for the relationship energy remains strong as this is the very thing that will help carry you through what may be a personally challenging time.

    Often it is not the ‘fault’ of the dynamic or events between two partners within a current relationship that causes difficulties. Personal issues and misunderstandings that one partner carries with them (including negative emotional experiences sometimes stretching back into their childhood) that have never been fully resolved, can transfer into and contaminate and stagnate the energy of a current relationship.  It may also be that the remaining partner may never understand or come to terms with this ‘emotional baggage’ and can feel emotionally locked out, rejected, frustrated and helpless as a result.

    In both these scenarios, if the relationship as a ‘living entity’ is not strong, the focus of energy will be drawn inwards and devoured by the seemingly overpowering negative feelings and emotions of each partner rather than the being directed more positively towards nurturing the relationship.

    All these problems and issues can be resolved so that the relationship energy can begin to thrive and grow but it takes lots of love, determination and on-going open communication from both partners to do so. Before each partner can begin to address their own issues as individuals, the healing must always involve stabilising and harmonising the energy of the relationship, and this requires the willingness and commitment from both partners to participate in this process.

    The third teaching that I would like to offer relates to emotional misunderstandings in the form of personal expectations within a relationship…

    Phrases I commonly hear when working with clients are: “She’s not the woman I’m married” or “He’s changed such a lot since we’ve been married“. These types of statements immediately tell me that the individual does not fully grasp the wonderfully dynamic and sometimes volatile nature of the energy that makes up a relationship. If you can relate to these types of statements and feelings you must understand that as human beings we can never stop changing and transforming, and similarly, the energy of your relationship will always continue to evolve.

    This idea of change and movement of energy is one of the most fundamental teachings of Taoism yet our human centred mind can sometimes find this process somewhat scary or frightening – it will look back into the past longingly thinking that things were better as they used to be, or else it projects into the future is unable to see things in positive light.

    Remember, you cannot hold onto any moment or phase within a relationship. Attempting to do this creates a stagnation that results in either or both of you having to force or artificially manipulate the energy of the relationship. This is when conflict within the relationship can arise and feelings of dissatisfaction and resentment grow, creating an opportunity for the relationship to be strangled with Ego thoughts such as “this is too much hard work“, “I can’t be bothered” or “it’s just not worth the effort.”

    There will of course be good and bad times; initial feelings of excitement and thrill may transform into a deeper and stronger and more lasting feelings of mutual respect and intimacy within your relationship; there may be periods when the relationship is extremely close and interdependent and times when this is not the case.

    The solution always lies in acceptingembracing and celebrating the evolving nature of yourself, your partner and your relationship. Instead of trying to work against this natural flow of all things why not work with it? The energy of your relationship should be flexible and expansive so that both you and your partner can feel happy to freely express yourself, to learn, to grow, to reach your true potential, all without having to deal with any negative feedback or repercussions. As the lines of the Tao Te Ching state:

    Then you can truly love all people without harming yourself,

    allowing others to rise to their fullest height, whilst not diminishing your own stature.

    Encouraging your partner to grow to their fullest height should not in any way diminish your expectations or potential of yourself.  View yourself and your partner as independent spirits following their dreams; support each other to be the best that you can be as individuals without stifling your own potential. When you achieve this your relationship becomes the best that it can be and you’ll both benefit from the process!

    In conclusion, I hope my teachings here have offered you a fresh perspective or reconnected you to your authentic thinking on the subjects of love and relationships.


    • First and foremost always apply the principle of Ch’ang and self-nurturing in all that you do.
    • Then extend this nurturing and love outwards by embracing the importance of making an equal and shared commitment to the three energies involved in your relationship: you, your partner and the relationship itself. Take time to work through and agree a mutual understanding about how you will both nurture and promote the relationship.
    • Finally, regularly affirm and embrace the dynamic, ever changing and flowing nature of your relationship and your mutually supportive life journey together. This will allow you to maintain vibrancy and interest within the relationship in the long term. From a Taoist perspective this means you’re maintaining the harmonious flow of Wu Wei, which then attracts unlimited positive energy into your life and your relationship.

    Yi Tao Qi Tao

    About the Author

    David James Lees is a spirituality and wellness author, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner, counsellor, hypnotherapist, NLP Master, and a Member of the British Acupuncture Council. David has a lifelong interest in Taoism, Taoist philosophy and Qigong, and was first taught meditation by Chinese Tibetan Buddhist monks when he was 16 years old, which helped him tackle a profound stutter. After qualifying as a TCM practitioner in the UK, David trained for a number of years as a Qigong instructor with Doctor Shen in London and Master Wan Su Jain in Beijing, and was later ordained as a Taoist Master in the sacred Wudang Mountains in China. Today, David is a trusted advisor and broadcaster on emotional health issues and alternative therapies in the UK. You can follow David on his blog: www.WuWeiWisdom.comFacebookTwitterPinterest and Soundcloud.  For the latest information on David’s therapies, classes, workshops and special events visit Peak House Practice.

    This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact.

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